Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Numbers

I’ve been trying to figure out what to write this week. I thought about telling you about the time I bored a friend to death. But that’s kind of a downer for the first of the year. Then the idea of numbers came to me when a friend recommended the television show by that name. I’ve written two very different pieces based on numbers so I’m combining them here. Maybe they have more in common than I thought. Just remember when I start talking about fires that I wrote these pieces years ago so it will have no relation to our extremely dry and dangerous weather out here. For that you can read the piece I wrote in July.

$362.11
Three Hundred Sixty Two dollars and eleven cents… $362.11. Remember that number. We’ll come back to it later.

A few years ago Beaven was driving down the road when a horrible noise came from under the hood. He couldn’t figure out what was happening-especially since the car was operating perfectly. He turned off the airconditioner and the noise stopped.
He continued down the road, calculating the cost of a new air conditioner motor. He wasn’t too worried since the car was fairly new and everything mechanical was covered by a warranty. All he faced was inconvenience. We keep all the bases covered at our house. Foolish mistakes don’t happen to us.

The next morning he got in the car to go to work and immediately smelled that something was dead somewhere. Really dead. And it was dead in just about the worst possible place-the airconditioner ducts. It was going to be a hot day. To put it mildly, his options looked bleak. There are a lot of succinct ways to describe his situation but all the ones I know involve hard-core cussing.

I volunteered to switch cars for two reasons: (a) I had more time to take it to the shop and (b) I had changed more dirty diapers than he had. The few dirty diapers that he managed to change involved the use of an old gas mask he brought home from the Air Force. I, however, was used to smells. Or so I thought.

I had to drive with the window rolled down and my head out the window, breathing in puffs of fresh air as needed. In the words of the repair bill, the car was “engulfed” by a foul odor. That’s putting it nicely. It cost $362.11 to undo the damage a small but acrobatic mouse had done. Mousie had climbed under the hood and inside the AC motor. When Beaven started the car it literally shredded the mouse into bits. Bits that now lay in the motor as rotting and dead meat.

Now, who could we blame? That was the hard part. $362.11 is nothing to sniff at. (As if we wanted to sniff at it.) This was just about the one thing our fool-proof extended warranty didn’t cover. We couldn’t file against our insurance. We couldn’t sue anyone. We just had to suck it in and pay the money. We couldn’t blame God. We couldn’t even blame the mouse. Someone suggested we could blame the cat. She yawned at our accusations. Chasing mice had never been in her contract. We were left holding the bag. I didn’t like it one bit.

I have petitioned God to open a special complaint department. Maybe even one complete with apologies and a magic wand. In the meantime, I’m left with the words of the great bumpersticker philosopher, “Stuff Happens.” It’s not a happy feeling.


----------but sometimes things happen exactly the way they are supposed to happen and it all unfolds so easily that it almost makes it seem boring: ---------



Notes from my life:
August 8, 2002
Sulphur Springs, Texas
$9.96

I was driving into town this morning and saw a crowd of cars stopped on either side of the road ahead. “Must be one of those used tractor sales they have out here all the time.” I thought. One of the things I love about the country is how relaxed their pace is. If they want to have a tractor sale they just do it right where the tractor sits. No fanfare, no fuss. Then I noticed people running toward the side of the road.. “Must be a loose horse” They get those out here all the time, too. People will often pull over to help get a horse or a cow back inside the fence when it’s loose. Then I saw flames and realized there was a fire under the hood of one the cars.

Without so much as a second thought I only had to move my left hand six inches to the silver button by the door handle. Before my car had come to a complete stop the trunk door popped open and I was able to go straight to the fire extinguisher I knew would be in my trunk.
I seldom pay attention to it but I know it’s there. For the last thirty-plus years I’ve been married to Beaven I’ve always had a fire extinguisher and a set of battery cables in the trunk of my car. Beaven takes care of us that way. Sure enough, there it was exactly where I knew it would be.

I took it out of the box and was examining it while I walked toward the burning car Across the road a woman was yelling out “Will that thing explode?” And another woman was running over with the only liquid she had in her car: windshield washing solution. Another car pulled over to the side of the road in front of the burning one. Just about every car that came down the road pulled over to help in some way.

The man from the burning car saw me and ran toward me. “Is that a fire extinguisher?” “Yeah, but I’m not sure I know how to use it.” “That’s OK” He took it and ran back to the car.
The woman who was worried about explosions was now yelling out asking if he needed a cell phone. I saw a burst of white under his hood and the fire went out. Behind me stopped a uniform delivery truck and two men jumped out, one was carrying a five gallon water cooler and the other had another fire extinguisher. They went to where the grass had caught fire under the car. Another man running up behind me called out “Do you need a cell phone?” I looked and saw another man standing by the burned car already speaking on a donated cell phone.

By this time the fire was out. The whole process had taken less than five minutes. I found myself wondering what there was to do next. I decided nothing. There wasn’t any point waiting around for the empty fire extinguisher. I don’t think you can refill them. So I just got back in the car and continued down the road.

Less than five minutes. Ten strangers. Three cell phones, two fire extinguishers, a bottle of windshield cleaning solution, one bucket of drinking water. Less than 20 words had been exchanged.

I had been heading to Wal-Mart anyway. I added another fire extinguisher to my cart. $9.96 dues for being a member of a loving society.

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